Verses in love: an Indoneasian movie about love and relationships in Islam or cop outs and ironies
Verses in love or its Indoneasian title Ayat ayat cinta is taking the country by storm. The movie is from the novel from the same name.
I read the Strait Times synopsis is credible and I'll provide its Cliff Note's version. Afterwards, I'll comment on the cop outs and ironies.
The story revolves around Fahri bin Abdulliah, a poor kid who gets a scholarship to study at THE Moslem university: Al-Azhar in Cario. During his studies, he attracts 4 different women- 'cause he's so handsome- but there are 2 that are of any importance to the movie. Aisha the rich German-Turk who wears a burka and Maria the Copt. While 'romancing' the four women, he turns down 1 who later falsely accuses him of rape; in the meantime he marries Aisha.
He's then accused of the false rape charge by one of the women that he rejected and faces the death penalty. Maria the Copt is the one who can save him. She's so in love with him that she obliges him to marry her; he reluctantly agrees and Aisha consents if only to save her husband. Towards the end of the movie- Maria converts to Islam (rather inexplicably according to the bloggers who've seen the movie)and later dies (that wasn't mentioned in the aforementioned newspaper article but from the same bloggers who saw the movie.
That's the plot now on to the cop outs and ironies:1) Cop out #1: The movie is about an Indoneasian Moslem who studies at THE Moslem university so why didn't the director at least tacitly acknolwedge the latent tensions between Arab and non-Arab Moslems with Al-Azhar as the microcosm After all the movie is rather preachy with various homlies about what Islams says and Mohammed did that.
2)Irony #1: If Islam is such a peaceful and compassionate religion how come it's only Maria the Copt who can save Fahri from the false charge of rape? Couldn't the director have meditated on why was that? Is it because Maria's religion is quite demanding that people tell the truth and is highly condemnatory against bearing false witness? After all the movie is rather preachy with various homlies about what Islams says this and Mohammed did that.
3) Cop out #2: Maria is so besotted with Fahri that she doesn't even demand that he divorce Aisha? Couldn't the director have added some interreligious tension? At the very least, touch on the fundamental differences between the Islamic and Christian concepts of marriage. Nor did he even involve Maria's parents or the parish. Be explcit about the the alarm that Maria's love craze would provoke among the Copts and the colossal tension they, especially the women, face to convert. The director discusses polygamy but it's too neat and conflict free. Hell, Maria could've reminded Fahri that he can't serve 2 wives; he'll love one and hate the other. So he'd better choose and it'd better be her 'cause he owes her his life.
4) Cop out #3: Aisha the German-Turk student. It's unclear if she a Turk of German extraction or something else. No matter, the director really copped out here because what's she doing in Al-Azhar and why? Also, why is she wearing the burka. The director doesn't even bother with exploring the possible tensions of a Turkish woman born in Germany studying in a rather conservative university in the Mideast. Also the other big cop out is that she's from Germany. Unsurprising really. If Fahri had married any of the 2 that he had rejected, either women would've been completely outclassed by Maria and possibly by Aisha. So the novelist and the director had Fahri marry Aishaso she could be on a similar footing to Maria. Worse, Fahri, being a rather smart and inquistive man would've been bored by the other 2 he ultimately rejected because their intellectual outlook was limited and he would've been attracted to Maria (and Aisha) at any rate. In sum, he's attracted to 2 women who came from Christanized milieux who are sufficently instructed that they can share his inquistiveness and challenge him. That's a pretty unintended, if damning, indictment of Islam's attitude towards women.
5) Cop out #4: Maria's conversion to Islam from her own accord and no pressure from her husband. That's bring us back to Cop out #2. The Christian viewer would assume that Maria is sufficently well-cathecized and aware of where she lives, the aforementional pressures to convert; that she wouldn't give up her eternal salvation for a plate of lentils. Again, the director- following the novelist- wanted a nice, neat resolution to the underlying tensions of a polygymaous, mixed marriage. The director squandered the opportunity to highlight Islam's alleged respect for the people of the book.
The movie's timing is really off and so it's not hard to laugh at the plot and mock the main character. It's really, really tough to potray Islam as a compassionate religion just as the Indoneasian and other Moslems whip themselves up to become bezerkers over Geert Wilder's movie. Surely Islam is sufficently sturdy to withstand that movie...or is it?